When he shoots hoops, he looks as though he's flying. But that's about as close as to being up in the air that rookie NBA player Royce White would like to be.

Battling Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the athlete suffers from a deep fear of flying.

Unfortunately, as a newly-minted professional basketball player for the Houston Rockets, White will need to traverse across the globe to play in a season of over 80 games. And the luxury of flying with fellow players in a first-class team airplane is not likely to alleviate his anxieties.

The Challenges of Going Pro

Excited for the opportunity to play in the professional league, White nonetheless noted in a recent interview, “Just knowing what I know about anxiety and mental health, there is a side of my mind that can't look away from the fact that I do think about it every day. I wake up (and think), 'Am I cut out for this?'"

A first-round draft pick, White was absent for his new team's training camp in Texas after being unable to fly.

“I'm definitely afraid of heights," he said, recalling years of panic attacks at airports during high-school basketball games and summer training programs. And though he's been able to fly various times since being drafted, he said his fears are particularly heightened during turbulence.

Becoming a professional player has also forced White to face his OCD. Thanks to a lucrative contract, White now lives in a much larger home. But for him, it also means, “Going around and seeing that dust has collected in a room you don't use often. And then I need to spend 30 minutes dusting that thing. That's a new one for me."

Sharing with the Public

White credits the team for being supportive as he openly discusses his struggles to promote awareness about mental health, a campaign he has participated in since college.

He tweets about his struggles and corresponds with fellow sufferers, eager to reduce the stigma associated with mental health.

GAD and OCD Explained

GAD is characterized by excessive worry about mundane, everyday occurrences. People with GAD struggle to function in daily routines, frequently shifting their focus from one concern to another. Symptoms include sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, irritability and muscle tension.

When symptoms persist for more than six months, GAD may be diagnosed. As with most anxiety disorders, GAD is treated with medications, psychotherapy or a combination of the two.

OCD is anxiety disorder marked by the presence of obsessions, compulsions or both. Obsessions involve persistent negative thoughts, such as a fear of germs; compulsions are repetitive behaviors that arise as a method of trying to alleviate those obsessions. For example, one who is obsessed with a fear of germs may engage in repetitive hand-washing, though the compulsion is time-consuming and excessive.

White is currently taking medication for his anxieties, but is not undergoing psychotherapy. He hopes to continue playing in the NBA despite his struggles.

Recommended For You

Sigal Sharf
Sigal Sharf


Date of original publication: